Saturday 24th December 2016.
Ho ho ho and a bottle of rum/Sheffield gin/Japanese whisky/ginseng & grapefruit (whatever your tipple basically) – festive tidings to one and all!
And a toasty keema pie and hot toddy welcome to The Gonzos – my end of Year curry awards.
It’s been a testing journey across land and sea to savour and examine every aromatic facet the Indians in my path had to offer this year (including the khazi): Paris, London, Newcastle, Spital Hill… Some triumphs, some white elephants. Some beautiful people ( The Dignified Demeanour…); the odd nutter (Shalimar…).
With thirty-six Indian restaurant meals under my loosened belt – top trouser button undone, antacid under my tongue, buckerooing my bowel spasms – I’m pleased to announce this year’s champion performers by category:
Pickle Tray: Jumaira, Ecclesfield, Sheffield
Onion Bhaji: Jumaira, Ecclesfield, Sheffield
Starter: Gymkhana, Mayfair, London
Main: Urban Choola, London Road, Sheffield
Bread: Gymkhana, Mayfair, London
Service: Gymkhana, Mayfair, London
Value: Mangla, Spital Hill, Sheffield
Drinks: New Jawed, Rue de Longchamp, Paris
Toilets: Jaflong, Crookes, Sheffield
Ambience: The Valley Junction 397, Jesmond, Newcastle
Gulab Jamun: Two States, Hillsborough, Sheffield
Hot Wet Towels: Tandoori Cottage, Bishop’s Stortford
Light Fitting: Magna Tandoori, Berwick
Restaurant Rating: Gymkhana, Mayfair, London
The avid student of this year’s category scoring will note that in some cases there’s equality at the top. So a dutiful and deserved mention should go to both Zara’s and (dare I mention) Shalimar for their excellent pickle trays. Likewise, Jamaira for its ripsnorter salmon starter, pipped by an inspired brain of goat.
Congratulations to the lot, every one of the thirty-six, each offering a unique Indian spice sanctuary from a world of limp salads and fried potato chips. Could anyone have put it better than ex-England shot-stopper, Peter Shilton, “I prefer more spicy food to your Italian to be fair.”?
And finally… hunched over my sloping top rhinoceros hide desk supported on gold flute pillars of mahogany, with a keen sense of anticipation and excitement, I prepare to announce this year’s winner of the Gonzo Gutbucket Gong – a special award to the restaurant which, in my opinion, delivered an unsurpassed visceral frisson, a je ne sais quoi beyond the measure of scorecards and league tables…. I hear the latchkey turning in the lock – Dorkus back from bingo and sherry; my dopey siamese stirred by the prospect of cheesy beef Dreamies. I’ll be quick. Brian Preston and the gang, I salute you, worthy recipients of this year’s Gutbucket: 7 Spices